the "typical" Oberlin student can be summed up in three words: -smart -musical (this does not mean you are in the conservatory - over 50% of my non-conservatory friends are involved in bands or play an instrument in some way - it is a very musical community and the quality of the conservatory only adds to the environment with extremely famous and talented visiting artists and frequent concerts and operas put on by the students at a very high level) -liberal (there are conservatives here, but they are an extreme minority. many have had no problem being a conservative at Oberlin - the class of 2008 president was a republican - but there are instances of political pressure from the students. for instance, in the 2004 presidential elections, people who openly admitted to intend to vote for Bush often faced a LOT of pressure to just not vote from their friends and peers, or had students attacking their views and forcing them to defend themselves against a barrage of liberal viewpoints) If you fit this description exactly, or would describe yourself with two or even one of these words, you will most likely be quite happy at Oberlin. The one thing I would say is that the most important word up there by far is "smart". Oberlin is a very intellectual atmosphere, sometimes almost pretentiously intellectual, and there isn't a lot of respect for dumb people or people that pretend to be dumb. Actually, that's not entirely correct - you can be dumb as long as you are an extremely gifted musician in the conservatory. oh, and if you aren't gay and transgendered friendly, don't come here, please.
The Student Body really makes Oberlin what it is. I've heard many times that we're the school's biggest asset and as corny as it may sound I tend to agree. Oberlin prides itself on its commitment to diversity yet it's something with which the school has constantly struggled. It gives out a lot of money in Financial Aid and admits a good number of students from lower income families but as tuition as grown this has been harder to do. Part of Oberlin Strategic Plan is to admit more full paying (i.e.rich) students. Racially things could be a lot better. Oberlin does make an effort to recruit minority students. As an African American male I found that I was a valuable commodity at Oberlin but valuable primarily because we're so rare. Oberlin has been admitting African American since 1835, one of the first schools to do so but in modern times it seems to have dropped the ball a little. The desire and commitment to diversity is there. All that's lacking is the diversity. As I mentioned above Oberlin is an accepting place if you're part of the LGBT community though our numbers are somewhat exaggerated. There does seem to be a large number of lesbians, especially on sports teams, but the gay male community seems a little anemic. This might be because Oberlin is a majority female school and a good number of those females are willing to experiment. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of most guys. Transgender people also have a small but strong community on campus. It's not perfect but I'd consider Oberlin one of the best places for Trans folk.
I am a member of La Alianza Latina and a member of Third World Co-op, a safe space primarily for low-income, first generation, LGBTQI, international and/or POC students. It has been an enlightening experience being in both of these groups, because I didn't grow up in a community that addressed many issues. My community is very liberal and there isn't much debate over how things should work. Because Oberlin is an academic environment we talk a lot about the issues of marginalized people often, both within the context of Oberlin and the greater world. A student who isn't very open-minded would probably not feel very comfortable at Oberlin. Students wear clothes to classes, only some people wear sweats or pajamas, though there are some people who do and it isn't weird. It isn't like many people really dress up for class though, except for some Conservatory students. Most students at Oberlin come from the NYC area or the San Francisco Bay Area, but there are people from all over! It seems like students are predominantly from the upper middle class background, though there is a pretty tight-knit group of low-income students, as well as low -income students that are extremely integrated within the Oberlin community. Students tend to be more politically aware and active than most, but not as much as one might think considering the stereotypes about Oberlin students. The student body is predominantly left. Students talk about how much they'll earn one day, but not that often.
Ok so there are really all types here, except frat boys and sorority girls. The campus is slightly self-segregated between black and white students. There is a slight hesitancy to talk about race, but only because all the white kids are so afraid to be disrespectful, so it comes from a good place but it's still very frustrating. Most kids dress regularly or hipster-y (like whatever's in fashion at the moment). But we have a girl that wears a cape and a guy that wears a bathrobe and one with a Beret, this is Oberlin. I think we are mostly upper-middle class. But then we also have lower class people and international students that may be here on full financial aid. There is quite a gap, with not many people in between ( I dont think). This is a HUGE issue on this damn campus. Privilege is something you will inadvertently be made to feel ashamed of if you allow it. Again, it comes from a good place because people are conscious of it and of disadvantage, but it's kind of taboo to discuss face to face so a lot goes on on the confessional about it. Oh yea, we have a confessional online. People are politically active and involved. Most people are left. not far left but overwhelmingly so. Some people find this homogeneity tiresome. If you're LGBTI you've come to the right place.
oberlin is one of the most tolerant places for lbgt people... for freshman orientation, we have assemblies about transgender concerns... oberlin is primarily white, upper middle class, liberal, people mostly hail from Boston, new york, new jersey... there ARE a lot of californians, texans, and people from chicago, too.... MOST students are liberal.... generally conservatives may feel out of place here (BUT the Conservatory is a unique institution, too...) At the same time, there is a lot of campus activism from the various racial communities... A LOT of student groups.... The Multicultural resource center is a great resource for people... they do workshops about lbgt concerns, class concerns, the EL Center for transgendered people and women is a campus resource, too. unfortunately, many "liberals" may not be too tolerant of Christians (because they only think Christians are like the white, right winged men they see on tv); at the same time, there is a group called Ecumenical Christians of Oberlin is a great group; they work with the local ministers... there IS a large Jewish community on campus... and there is a Kosher Halal co'op.... most students here joke about how LITTLE money they make after they graduate... because we are doing what we love
I have had many experiences with a lot of different people. Its a campus that allows all walks of life to live as one. I have friend who I would never have thought I would have in a million year. Sexual preference, skin color, ethnicity, etc. don't matter. Get to meet the person. A very close-minded person would feel out of place. You gotta be able to open up and learn new things. You've got to learn to accept people for who they are. Students wear clothing for whatever the weather is. You've got hipsters, jocks, vegans, neat freaks, so sometimes walking to class can be interesting. Once again, Oberlin College is a perfect place for different types of students to interact, because it helps one to learn about different people. The four tables are made up of all different people. You have a real variety when checking out the dining hall. Most students on the campus are from New York, California or Ohio. Pretty affluent backgrounds tend to walk the sidewalks of Oberlin College, but you've got some from every other aspect as well. Very politically aware and very politically active. Predominantly left, right and center. Students talk a lot about how much they hope to earn, and being at Oberlin College, you can bet it will be some good money.
Oberlin is very politically correct. Not oppressively so (people still appreciate off-color jokes about race and the like), but there is a constant awareness of race and gender relations on campus. Lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual and genderqueer students are an accepted part of the Oberlin community, and for those who undergo an identity shift during their years at Oberlin, there are great support systems in place. As far as social interactions with LGBTQ students, the best thing to do is listen first, to pick up on the particular pronoun that person wishes to be identified with, though no one will be offended if you just ask. Likewise, if someone you know changes identity, they won't get offended if you mess up a couple times. Religious groups on campus are rarely evangelical, and seem to function more like support groups. They are non-exclusive (anyone can come) and are often a really great way to learn about other faiths. In a somewhat symbolic way, the Kosher/Halal Co-op cooks food specific to the religious dietary requirements of both Jews and Muslims. At the dinner, Jews and Muslims sit together, and prayers are said in both Hebrew and Arabic.
People at Oberlin are generally pretty PC, in part because there's a huge lesbian and transgender community, along with a good number of gay guys. Our racial diversity is a work in progress, but I'd say it's mostly because we're in the midwest. We definitely have a number of rich kids, most most people are middle or lower-middle class, and we're very generous with financial aid for those who need it. Someone intolerant would feel out of place here, I suppose. People wear whatever they want to class, but we're not so big on the sweatpants ...you'll see the occasional guy in a skirt. I'd say we're not very cliquish, though LARPers and certain groups of Conservatory students tend to mostly associate with each other. Oberlin students are from everywhere, but a great number of them are from California, New York City, the DC area, and Ohio. We're very politically active and aware, but often in ways you wouldn't expect - Oberlin students came out in droves to fight against a coal plant. Yes, we're lefties, commies, and anarchists - but I'm a moderate with libertarian ideological leanings and I feel perfectly comfortable here.
I'm not sure anybody could feel out of place. Maybe staunch conservatives, but there's enough openness and acceptance to go around that I'm not sure that would be awkward or out of place. People tend to be accepting of everything, there's a completely comfortable attitude with LGBT communities, and no racial or religious tension that I have noticed so far. People dress on all ends of the spectrum- polo shirts to hemp pants and walking around barefoot. If there were four tables in the dining hall, we would probably have "the bros," or those athletes that find their way to Oberln, the Larpers, gaming and role-play crowds, a Co-op group, people in co-ops who cook their own food and eat mostly vegetarian, and the other tables would be your average college students- Not everybody identifies as being offbeat. Students are quite politically aware and active- and it's definitely predominantly left and some center. I've never heard a student talk about learning for the sake of a job later or making money- We're here to learn and most people want to "change the world" and help others.
The student body is not quite as diverse as the college claims it to be, but it is an extremely open community and everyone is very friendly and accepting. Of course there is a very specific atmosphere on campus that may not be for everyone, but I'd find myself hard-pressed to think of one TYPE of person that wouldn't fit in, and I was very impressed when I got to campus freshman year with how open everyone was- and still is! I think it's more of an individual thing, althought you may find yourself in more than your share of debates if you are a raging conservative republican. I think that the most represented states on campus are New York and California, although most of my friends ended up being from the Midwest and the South, so I'm not sure it's really all that important... The most important thing about Oberlin's student body is that its priorities are in order. Students are passionate, and they're willing to pick majors and extracurriculars that truly interest them, that will truly benefit the world, no matter what this means in terms of being rich in the future.